The Linguistics of Tea: Preserving Adivasi Culture

By Anika Rice, NG Explorer Programs

The daily cup of black tea is a popular global staple, but have you ever thought about who produces this ubiquitous morning beverage? In the northeastern state of Assam, Indian tea laborers of the Adivasi ethnic groups produce more than enough tea leaves to feed a lifelong caffeine craving. Their work is felt around the world, yet the Adivasis struggle to preserve their cultural and linguistic heritage.

Adivasi actually refers to most any indigenous ethnic group in India. In the 1840s, Adivasis migrated to Assam from the tribal belt of the eastern Chota Nagpur Plateau in the northeast, and British colonial planters also brought them there to work as indentured servants and laborers in the industrial tea gardens. Since the early 19th century, the tea industry has boomed while the economic reality of the Adivasis has not. On these expansive terraced gardens, women spend the day trimming tea leaves in the sun while men use high-heat furnaces to roast the leaves to perfection.

Although they account for about 20 percent of the population, most local schools do not teach in Adivasi languages. Dropout rates are high, while literacy rates are low. To address these challenges, an organization —> Read More Here


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